Sounds from around

Thought it’ll be interesting to share a list of quotes and conversations that I pick up from around me, whether I’m commuting on the train or going for a run. Sometimes it pays not to have my earphones plugged-in, and reflecting about what others have said can make for quite an illuminating experience. I’ll update this periodically.


“Maybe he stays in Joo Koon,” guessed a student, as we waited for our tutor who was 26 minutes late for our first class. It was a rainy morning and he was caught in a jam, according to the sign on the classroom door. In this part of the world, Joo Koon is considered godforsaken.

“Mummy, I’m very boring,” said a young child to his mum. “I’m very bored,” she corrected. It was very amusing.

“You’re from FedEx? Ohh… DHL! Err, just open the gate and leave the parcel there next to the door, it should be safe,” said a middle-aged man on the MRT dressed in business attire. I wish I could’ve said the same a day before, having missed a parcel delivery as no one was at home. Unfortunately ‘a gate that leads to a safe space next to the door’ doesn’t belong to me.

“By the way, he has a very planned, mediocre name,” said a professor in a lecture one day. He was referring to someone named John Johnson, who wrote about a book about the role of the military in underdeveloped countries. If ever I have any kids, I will take extra precaution not to give them ‘planned, mediocre names’.

“Eh boy you got no exams? … I can go exams? … I can only sweep the floor. Work harder eh boy!” reminded an uncle when I greeted him on a morning during the exam period. He was sweeping fallen leaves off the road. I was on my way out of school to get tickets for Coldplay’s concert. Timely reminder.

“I spilled hot chocolate on my notes,” said Student A. “Don’t worry, two week’s time (when exams are over) can throw away,” replied Student B. Such is education sometimes.

“Eh handsome, got teh tarik or not?” said a middle-aged Chinese man to an Indian Teh Halia seller at Ali Drinks Store (Albert Food Centre) in a teasing manner. The Chinese man had no interest in buying a cup of teh tarik. The Indian man smiled to himself, obviously taking ‘handsome’ as a compliment. It was racial harmony in action, and that is always a happy sight.

“We’ll come here for one hour every day alright, you like it right?” said a father to his three-year-old (I’m guessing!) daughter outside National Gallery Singapore. I hope he wasn’t lying to her, and I would’ve liked a childhood like that too. Not sure whether my opinion will change if I ever become a parent, but that’s parenting done right. I hope the little girl has been visiting the National Gallery for an hour everyday since then.

“Wah, the whole place smells like saltwater. What’s going on?” asked someone along the corridor outside my college room. I thought he was being ridiculous until I stepped out of my door. The place did smell like the sea, and I had no idea what was going on.

“F***ing Irish, what the f*** was that?” exclaimed a fellow UberPOOL passenger when an Irish song came on the radio. I didn’t know what to do.

“Because my Mandarin is parked somewhere else, like a childhood memory or something,” a college-going student told his friend on the bus. What a way to put it! Mine too feels like a childhood memory, and it’s not something I’m particularly proud of.

“When you exchange your vows with your spouse…” — Heard someone say this to his friend as I was walking to the lecture hall in school. They were both male, and of college-going age. First thought: that rhymes! Second thought: quite an intense conversation on a lazy Monday morning!

“I’m going to to give you a few more papers to practice,” said a mother to her son, who looked to be in upper-Primary School to me. I’m glad I’ve passed the stage of education where doing the ‘Ten-year-series’ is the sure-fire way to success. I also felt for the boy.

“Tired lah, I yawn two times already,” said an Uber driver in response to my question on how many more trips he was planning to do that night. It was slightly before 2am and he was taking me home from the airport. We get annoyed when we need them and can’t find them, but Uber drivers (just like taxi drivers) are human too.

“妈妈上班不能带你去,” said a grandma to a kid who was crying in her arms. Overheard this while running along a canal one morning. Made me think about children who are brought up by anyone other than their parents.

“Shut your mouth!” — A kindergarten-going child shouted this at his grandpa, who had just warned him not to walk beneath windows to avoid being hit by killer litter. The pair walked past me when I was chilling at a HDB void deck opposite my workplace. I hope none of us are as rude to our elders.

Student A, while sitting himself down next to a friend in a lecture hall said: “Eh the door there got one Dragonite.” “I didn’t see it when I came in,” replied his friend. Student A remarked: “That’s why you shouldn’t come for lectures so early!” — This was the first conversation I heard in my first lecture of college life. Sometimes I’m embarrassed when I’m not in the loop on certain trends, but Pokemon Go is not one of them.

“I’m at the big statue, you know, the Our Glorious Dead.” — Heard this repeatedly from many different mouths when I was at The Cenotaph, a memorial erected to commemorate the war dead. It was a Sunday morning and scores had gathered around it, awaiting a run. Those who spoke that phrase were mostly on their mobile phones, describing the landmark to friends who were trying to locate them amidst the crowd. Two things struck me. The Cenotaph is a monument, not a statue. Our Glorious Dead carries much weight, but I heard it so many times that morning that it almost became inconsequential. Can’t blame anyone I suppose.